I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this bad for Mormons before. (Sorry, Big Love fans.) Holden’s plan to use the Navuoo to ram Eros into a sun is a big bold move, and big bold moves need a cost in order to be dramatically plausible; if Fred Johnson had just had a spare giant ship kicking around, it would’ve made things easier but a lot less interesting to watch. Still, while the aftershocks of Johnson’s decision (which, as others point out, is going to cost him pretty much everything) may take some time to register, the seizure of the Mormon dream project is a sacrifice I’m not sure I can entirely wrap my head around. The Mormons aren’t enough of a presence for their loss to really have much emotional weight—the whole thing almost feels like a joke at their expense.
It’s a rare moment of disinterest from a show that generally works to make sure we understand where all sides are coming from, even if those sides are bastards. (And, to its credit, we did spend a decent amount of time last week learning just how much hope the Mormons had put into their space ark. It’s just the fact that one guy has to serve in as a stand in for the entire group that makes them a little harder to get worked up about.) “Godspeed” finds Miller and Holden making the sort of hard choices that come up whenever stories get more complicated than “good vs. evil,” and it’s that constant mixture of pressure and stakes, of knowing just enough to know that you don’t know everything, that keeps those choices as dramatically rich as they are thrilling.
Actually, the episode gets even more interesting than that. Both men demonstrate their willingness to make sacrifices in the name of what they consider to be the greater good: For Holden, that means firing on a ship full of well-meaning but potentially dangerous doctors; for Miller, that means giving up his own life in order to ensure that the bombs on Eros go off when they need to. Except neither of these sacrifices work out the way either man plans, because when the Navuoo finally arrives—it misses. Eros dodges the battering ram.
Which raises all sorts of fascinating (and terrifying) speculation about the protomolecule, and also serves to undercut the simplicity of Holden and Miller’s tough calls. The essence of the hard choice in drama is that it forces a character into an impossible position of having to do the unthinkable in order to achieve their goals. It’s a choice that needs to be fundamentally binary in order for it to have the most power. When Holden fires the rocket, he’s under a hard deadline—the Marasmus is moving out of range, and if he lets them go, they’ll be able to send word out to the rest of the galaxy about what’s happening (or what they imagine is happening) on Eros. Miller has a bomb that’ll go off in sixty seconds unless he keeps his finger on the trigger.
All of which is straightforward enough. Holden’s problem almost feels like some kind of hellish ethical word problem. But the ultimate failure of Miller’s plan is a reminder that no situation is entirely airtight, no moral dilemma is as fiendishly perfect as we might like to imagine. Holden arguably made the right call, but now, instead of living with a murderous action that nonetheless helped ensure that conditions on Eros would remain secret, things are more complicated. With Eros apparently moving under its own power, the clarity of the crisis is gone, and however painful that clarity might have been, it’s still better than the alternative. It’s harder to say you did what you had to do when it suddenly turns out that you might not have had to do it.
Miller won’t suffer the same pangs of conscience, but he also doesn’t get the easy out that part of him seems so desperately to crave. He’s not blatantly suicidal, but while his clear desire to do right by Julie Mao’s memory is pushing him onward, the fact that he’d go back to Eros, and go on a spacewalk that he’s unprepared for, suggest someone who, at the very least, has started to associate doing the right thing with a certain lack of interest in self-preservation. When he says he’s better than he’s ever been near the end, one finger on the button all that’s keeping him from blowing to hell, he’s sincere. The only thing he has left to live for is a dead woman, and that tends to lead in one direction only. Then Eros dodges, and everything changes.
I realize I’ve spent a lot of time (maybe too much) getting at what really is only two moments in the episode, but I admire the narrative gymnastics of it. The twist works on a pure story level, but the subtle mockery of Holden’s and Miller’s assumptions—and our own—makes it that much more thrilling to watch. And to be honest, given how most of the hour is given over to the plan to destroy Eros, there’s not a lot of plot to discuss. Avasarala gets her few minutes to shine, doing what she does (this time, using info from Fred Johnson to start putting some heat on the Protogen conspiracy), and Miller bonds with Diogo, the goofy Belter kid from last week. Holden makes his tough call. Some doctors go boom, and then Eros moves.
It’s good, and I remain impressed at how well the season is moving forward. There’s not a lot of room for risk here, exactly (I’m not sure “risk” is the right word, but I’m not sure the show has ever, or will ever, shake that slight feeling of remove it has; that’s something that comes up in a lot of science fiction writing), and Avasarala’s scenes still feel like supplementary material for a bonus feature that someone forgot to edit out, but overall, it works. At the very least, I can’t imagine not wanting to see what happens next.
- I continue to find Holden’s determination to be a good person fascinating, even when it begins to annoy me. (His rage at Miller in Johnson’s office was both in character and a bit much. I find them more entertaining when they’re awkwardly bonding.)
- “Med bays on pirate ships are usually just open airlocks.” -Amos (I apologize for not giving Amos much love in this or last week’s review, but he’s great.)